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House of Cards: The Summer 2014 Season

The House GOP paid a very high price yesterday for its insularity, it’s almost studied indifference to the party’s grassroots. Eric Cantor is a very smart, very talented man who will now have to spend three years preparing to become Virginia’s next governor instead of helping plan the 2015-2016 legislative opposition to President Obama and would-be president Hillary Clinton. That is very high pice to pay for a collective failing, one not even primarily of Cantor’s making. The guilt for being open to an ambush is collective, and belongs in part to everyone in the House leadership and especially their communications staffs who could not be bothered to oblige their bosses to even pretend to care what was going on among the regular GOP beyond the Beltway.

Churchill wrote of Lord Roseberry, a long ago near-great of the British Empire: “He would not stoop; he did not conquer.” The same could be said of the House leadership of the past 19 months. They did not know how to stoop to fight back against the president, Harry Reid, the MSNBC-led left, the establishment liberal MSM. Thus the Majority Leader is beaten and Speaker Boehner either a man on the way to a graceful exit or a lame duck about to be plucked –his choice. Message to the Beltway GOP: You have to be seen to be fighting for the big issues, not playing small ball or keeping low to the ground. You have to be truly fighting, and arguing, for the right path, and to do so you must be willing to articulate that path often and from any platform open to you. A strong defense, a serious budget, a commitment to religious freedom –these are core pillars of the GOP in the past and going forward. But they have to be argued for, and sophistry against them confronted and rebuked. The House leadership is at best ineffective in making the case for free enterprise, a strong military, and religious liberty. They have to improve and soon. Like today.

It is my strong belief that this is not a vindication of the anti-illegal immigration reform caucus, though that portion of the base had a huge role in upsetting Cantor. But the anti-regularization voting bloc is and remains a minority within the party, though kicking it is as stupid today as it has been for the past two years. It must have a long, high, double-sided fence and those electeds who refuse to say just that and act to get it built –saying it loudly, repeatedly and unashamedly– will rightly have to fight off suspicion that they don’t really care about border security. But the Twitter legion shouting “no amnesty” have to explain why Senator Graham won handily last night. They can’t, of course. The GOP remains overwhelmingly pro-regularization and pro-border fence, an obvious two-part policy that Beltway consultants have talked the GOP out of for years.

The worst result of Cantor’s loss would be the revival of “Minuteman” enthusiasm. It will be for Colorado’s primary electorate to save the GOP from that ledge by defeating Tom Tancredo in the Republican primary for governor. But it will be the job of the Beltway GOP to renounce legislation aimed at securing regularization and the fence until early 2015. This isn’t hard, but various Einsteins in D.C. have made it so.

I get to depart Dulles before a day of internal GOP bloodletting gets underway, egged on by MSM lefties. By the time I get to my California studio for today’s show, some form of GOP conventional wisdom will have taken shape. Cantor will be staying on as Majority Leader or he won’t. Boehner will signal he’s going to retire from the speakership, or he won’t. Whatever. That will be a very thin cover over the chaos within the House GOP caucus, a chaos that will luckily for the party as a whole and the country not impact the momentum against the president and Harry Reid which is real and building. The anti-Beltway whiff you caught last night is stronger the farther away from D.C. You get. It isn’t a good sign for Democrats no matter how they try and pass it off. Joni Ernst and Terri Lynn Land, who are GOP outsiders running for open Senate seats against blah-blah-blah Beltway-issue Democratic congressmen must be particularly encouraged by the currents at work in Virginia, as will be Tom Cotton, Thom Tillis and any other Republican who can truthfully claim not to be a part of the Beltway mess.

The Beltway GOP lost last night, and not even all of that and certainly not the national GOP, and neither the president nor Hillary can take much comfort in that. The anger that is building towards a significant November slap down of elites isn’t going to help the surrogates of Obama-Clinton-Reid-Pelosi, even as it has smashed GOP assumptions about what will happen over the next few months and in early 2015. The House GOP leadership took it on the chin, but not conservative GOP members of the House.

Chaos and uncertainty will be in the saddle for a few days within the House GOP conference, but that will have little if any impact on the national debate since it will result in a helpful gridlock, preventing “grand bargains” of any sort from emerging to cushion the free fall of the Democrats. There won’t be an immigration bill and there shouldn’t have been even the prospect of one before the new Congress arrives. As noted in the transcript below from the panel from yesterday’s show on the mess at the VA

Into the gap must come some combination of Majority Whip McCarthy, and Chairmen Hensarling, Price, Ryan and Sessions, arranged via the Beltway math that few can practice who don’t live here, and I don’t. It was an interesting few days to visit and a perfect day to leave. By the time I get off my Jet Blue flight, take a nap and turn on the microphone at 6 PM Eastern, there will be a line-up of experts ready to tell us what it all means and a hundred callers with their own diagnoses. I will invite all five of those Members and the Speaker to join me during the show. It will be interesting to see if any accept. Leader Cantor never had the time for talk radio. Neither has Kevin McCarthy or the Speaker. The others have. Not a matter of great significance. But a telling detail. Now for the Jet Blue experience….

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    Hugh Hewitt
  • Hugh Hewitt is a lawyer, law professor, and broadcast journalist. A proficient blogger, Hugh Hewitt has one of the most visited political blogs in the U.S.

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